The U.S. U17 Men’s National Team entered the final day of Group A play sitting in first place. At the end of the day, the USA dropped to third in the group.
Thanks to wins over Ghana and India in the first two games (and a very forgiving path to the knockout round in the Youth World Cup), USA was already assured a spot in the Round of 16 prior to Thursday’s game against Colombia - and throughout most of the game played with the intensity of a team already moving onto the next round.
However, the 1-3 loss to Colombia makes life considerably more difficult for the group with fewer rest days before the next match. USA will either play against the winner of Group B (Paraguay) on Oct. 16 or the winner of Group C (TBD) on Oct. 17.
Thursday’s nightmare started early with a sloppy goal in the opening two minutes of the game. USA failed to handle a long throw-in near the corner flag. With no one taking ownership of the situation, the ball bounced in the box with multiple defenders looking at the ball. Juan Vidal tapped the ball past Justin Garces for the first goal of the game, and the first goal USA has conceded at the World Cup in India.
USA struggled to generate chances in the first half, but managed to find the equalizer thanks to George Acosta. Atlanta United winger Andrew Carleton did the work to set-up the goal. Carleton pressured a Colombia defender into kicking the ball out-of-bound for a throw-in in the attacking third. Carleton’s quick throw to Ayo Akinola kept the Colombia defense from getting organized. Akinola quickly played it back to Carleton who beat his first defender with a quick first step then dribbled to the endline before hitting a cross back to the top of the six-yard box. Acosta was there for the finish to bring USA back to level terms.
USA looked like it never got out of second gear in the second half. The passing between the lines was sloppy and the U.S. did not retain possession for any significant spells. Colombia was rewarded for the pressure on the U.S. defense with a goal in the 67th minute from Juan Penaloza. It was a splendid strike from a tough angle from Penaloza, but Garces probably should have done better on the effort.
It went from bad to worse in the final minutes of the game, as U.S. was caught on the counter in the 88th minute when Deiber Caicedo finished off a cross after being left unmarked on the far post. Caicedo made it 1-3 with a strike through Garces’ legs.
Timothy Weah entered the game after the third goal and added a punch to the USA attack. Weah had a chance immediately, but his shot from right outside box went over the crossbar. In stoppage time, he set-up a chance for Akinola, but the Toronto FC forward could not finish the chance before the goalkeeper plucked it off his foot.
Weah’s late effort was encouraging, but not enough to actually alter the outcome. The 1-3 loss is a sour note to end group play for USA after the group did exceptionally well against India and Ghana in the opening two games.
USA Starting XI: Justin Garces; Sergino Dest, Jaylin Lindsey, James Sands, Chris Gloster; Chris Durkin, Christopher Goslin (Tim Weah 88’), George Acosta (Blaine Ferri 78’); Ayo Akinola, Josh Sargent, Andrew Carleton (Jacobo Reyes 69’)